SACRAMENTO - Governor Pete Wilson has signed AB 1208 by Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) requiring the adoption of emergency regulations, no later than January 15, 1999, to workplace safety and health regulations to further address the hazards of exposure to unsafe needles by health care workers to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
"It is reported that each year over one million U.S. health care workers are injured by accidental needle sticks, with approximately 100,000 such incidents occurring in California," Wilson said. "These accidents can lead to the spread of infections among health care workers and others who are inadvertently exposed to blood containing such agents as Hepatitis and HIV. With the use of 'safety needles' these incidents could reportedly be reduced by 76 percent.
"This legislation recognizes the need to further address the hazard of employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens, particularly among California's healthcare workers, and calls for reasonable amendments to the Cal/OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard consistent with the current proposal already under development by that agency.
"In the absence of federal guidance, California finds it necessary to move forward with its own regulatory solution, which will most likely become the model for a national standard. Given that the adoption of these amendments by the Standards Board will occur after my departure from office, this legislation will provide an adequate framework to ensure that the Board pursues its rulemaking in accordance with a timeline agreed upon by all parties.
"Although some have argued that legislation is not necessary because Cal/OSHA has already drafted amendments which even the author of the bill has recognized as superior to the amendments she originally proposed, it is important to note that this bill has evolved substantially since it first proposed changes to the bloodborne pathogens standard. The version finally adopted by the Legislature jettisoned the original prescriptive language and replaced it with the core concepts of the Cal/OSHA proposal that will soon be put before the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board in its rulemaking process.
"AB 1208 is an important symbol of the consensus among the health care industry, labor and regulatory agencies on the need to move forward with this occupational safety and health issue, and the wisdom of doing so through the public rulemaking process."
The legislation requires emergency adoption of new provisions by January 15, 1999, which will give notice to employers of their new requirements, but will not require compliance with the new requirements until the implementation date of August 1, 1999.